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Grading K-pop Girl Group Debuts 2022: Part One

Been a short while, huh? Welcome back to me grading K-Pop girl group debuts! Though honestly, at this point, this is more of a summary than actually grading them, haha. This year I’m splitting it in half at the halfway point of the year; this article is only wrapping up the January to June debuts, though trust me when I say there will be plenty to report on for the end of the year.

As with last year’s articles, this is not including fusion groups such as GOT the beat, children’s groups or subunits such as PoshGirls-J. Even though I didn’t necessarily enjoy them last year, I even included Future Idol Asia’s debut groups, since they’re debuts all the same. Without further ado, enjoy!

Kep1er

D-art, “Cinderella” live performance

Grade: A

Well, as you know, I’ve been waiting for this group’s debut for a long time! While the group formed from Girls Planet 999 was originally supposed to debut on Dec. 14 of 2021 through WAKEONE and Swing Entertainment, due to COVID-19 they had to push that back to Jan. 3. Unfortunately, six of the nine members (to my count) also tested positive for COVID-19 not even a month after their debut, but as of now, all members are healthy (that I know of).

Kep1er debuted with their mini album First Impact with their title track “WA DA DA” being a hit in my books. I know some people were a bit disappointed with it, saying that it was a bit weaker compared to some other songs from Girls Planet 999 like “Shoot!” and “Utopia” even though the choreography and music video were great. As I laid out when I reviewed the whole mini album, there was a stark difference in line distribution as well, but all in all I liked their debut, so I’m giving them an A.

Additionally, Kep1er competed in Queendom 2, another sort of survival show that focuses more on showcasing different groups than debuting one, though they ended fifth out of six groups/soloists. They also had a comeback just days ago—you can find my review of that here!

H1-KEY

D-art, “Cinderella” live performance

Grade: D

Four-member H1-KEY debuted through GLG on Jan. 5 with their single “Athletic Girl.” With their concept being matched in the title of their single, this was more or less the only news heard about H1-KEY until recently, though I’ll come back to that in a moment. I personally wasn’t a fan of “Athletic Girl,” though it fit the bill when it came to the concept. I found it really repetitive, not the kind of song I would listen to on a regular basis, though it’s not necessarily bad, hence why it gets a D rather than an F.

In other news, it was revealed on May 25 that rapper and vocalist Sitala left the group, which I originally thought spelled out their soon disbandment. However, on June 7 GLG announced that H1-KEY would be having a comeback in July with a new member, Hwiseo, once more making the group a team of four. Even though I didn’t initially like their debut single, I’m interested in their next comeback.

Silhouette

D-art, “Cinderella” live performance

Grade: D

…I should say, as a disclaimer, that I have not enjoyed Future Idol Asia’s debut groups in the last year. But I told myself that I would give this year’s debuts a listen regardless, just to be fair. To give you a refresher on the company, Future Idol Asia is “a temporary subsidiary idol development and entertainment project branch of Rainbow Company.” They had a project to put out a new K-pop group just about every month last year, and have been doing the same this year.

Silhouette, a nine-member group, was their first debut of the year on Jan. 7. That also makes it the third girl group debut of the year, to my count. I only listened to their song “Siren” in June as I was writing this article, and I found a lot of the same critiques I had about last year’s groups. The song in this case is pretty catchy, but the members seem like they are very new to the K-Pop game—which, yes, sounds kind of bad considering how harsh the K-Pop game can be in terms of hard training, diets, what-have-you. Mostly I’m talking about vocal training here. I will give them the point that the youngest of the group was born in 2004, making her 17 or 18, which is a much more appropriate age in my opinion than the idols debuting at fifteen or, sometimes, thirteen or fourteen. This appropriateness is again referring to the often harsh training mentioned above. I’m still not the biggest fan of this song and its performance, though, so I’m going to give it a D.

D-art

D-art, “Cinderella” live performance

Grade: C

Last year, we had a few different university groups like Azer and Azer Blossom. D-art is like them, though through the Dong-ah Institute of Media and Arts. The four members debuted on Jan. 10 with their single “Cinderella,” which in my opinion isn’t bad, but it doesn’t particularly stand out. I did like Hwanhee’s rapping skills, though the rest of this song kind of faded into the background. I’ll be honest, I listened to this when it first came out, and I forgot that D-art even debuted until I was putting together this list. Nothing against this group; they have skills, it’s just a matter of better execution, which they may not be in control of. So I think I’m going to give them a C.

VIVIZ

VIVIZ, “Bop Bop!” music video

Grade: B

VIVIZ, I can say with certainty, was one of the most anticipated debuts of this half of the year, possibly the whole year, for one reason: all three members (Eunha, SinB and Umji) were members of the extremely popular group GFRIEND that disbanded last year. They debuted on Feb. 9 through BPM Entertainment with their mini album Beam of Light, showcasing their experience as idols with their title track “Bop Bop!” as well as live performances of some other songs on the album.

I’ll be honest, since I’m newer to K-Pop, I wasn’t entirely in on the hype for them, and “Bop Bop!” didn’t seem to be my type of song at the beginning. Now though, nearly five months later, this song has made its way onto my “Best Of” playlist—though they’re not one of my favorite debuts of the year. So I think they stand with a solid B as of now!

Along with Kep1er, VIVIZ competed in Queendom 2, coming in third place. This was a bit surprising to me, but the winning group WJSN (A.K.A. Cosmic Girls) had really great performances.

With Me

With Me, “천천히 다가와 줄래” (Cheoncheonhi Dagawa Jullae) music video

Grade: C

With Me, a ten-member group, was Future Idol Asia’s second debut of the year on Feb. 11. The single is titled “천천히 다가와 줄래” (Cheoncheonhi Dagawa Jullae), which translates to “will you come to me slowly” according to Google Translate. With a lighter concept, I was kind of more drawn in and felt like the group’s vocals were put to better effect than other Future Idol Asia groups. That said, the song itself was kind of boring; there’s definitely nothing outstanding about it. I think if the members were able to stand out a little more, or if the song were more enticing, I would be able to give them a B, but as of now, I can only give them a C.

NMIXX

NMIXX, “O.O” music video

Grade: C

JYP Entertainment is well-known as a company, having debuted popular groups like TWICE and ITZY. That was why I was kind of underwhelmed with NMIXX’s debut, but again I’ll touch on that in a moment. I’ve personally heard word of TWICE and ITZY being overworked and overscheduled a lot, which is why I find it a little funny in a way that NMIXX has so far only had their debut with single album “Ad Mare” on Feb. 22. Like, I literally have not heard much about NMIXX at all since their debut, despite watching several different kinds of videos about K-Pop.

While the members are definitely talented, that can’t be denied, I’m not the biggest fan of their debut song “O.O.” With the exception of what I think is either the second verse or the bridge; if that was made into the entire song, I think I would like it a lot more. There’s no doubt that that part of the song is the best, and I will stand by that. But since that’s only a small part of the song, I’m giving this debut a C. We’ll have to wait and see what else they can do.

Shadow

SHADOW, “Dream” music video

Grade: D

Another one of Future Idol Asia’s groups, SHADOW stands out among them because all seven members have previously debuted through Future Idol Asia groups—Magic Girl, ICECREAM, Perfume and TOP GIRL. You’ll remember these from my review last year.

SHADOW debuted on March 8 with their single “Dream.” I’ll be honest, I kept skimming over their page when I was seeing if I’d accidentally skipped any new debuts for the first half of the year, and I’m not sure exactly why it took me so long to realize that they had debuted. I was expecting somewhat of the same from SHADOW that other Future Idol Asia groups have—that is, nothing entirely outstanding or remarkable. Once more I noted that the instrumentals were really loud compared to the vocals, making it a bit hard for me to hear the members at times. This song isn’t as, frankly, boring as some of the other debuts this year, but the vocals and mixing of the song still need some work in my opinion. With the high notes in the chorus, I couldn’t make out what the lyrics were, which I feel is a bit of a detriment. There were parts that reminded me of (G)I-DLE’s “DUMDi DUMDi,” and I wasn’t really sure what to think of that. I’m going to give this group a D.

Fresh

Fresh, “Party” music video

Grade: C

11-member Fresh debuted through Future Idol Asia on March 30 with their single “Party.” With Fresh, I’m seeing a lot of what I did with With Me, where the vocal quality was better than usual with these groups; however, the song just felt bland. I can’t put a finger on why, but it did stand out more than With Me’s debut single, so I’ll give them a C. The song didn’t feel much like a party to me.

ily:1

ily:1, “사랑아 피어라 (Love in Bloom)” music video

Grade: A

I tried very hard to not be biased in my grading of this group, and I swear I’m not. Anyway, ily:1 debuted through FC ENM on April 4 with their single album “Love in Bloom.” Due to COVID-19, their original debut date of March 15 was pushed back, but I honestly think they were worth the wait.

So, where does my bias come in, you might ask? Simple, dear reader: Hayase Hana, Lee Yunji, Chang Ching and Kishida Ririka, four contestants from Girls Planet 999, are members of this six-member group (note: Lee Yunji goes by the stage name Ara and Chang Ching goes by the stage name Rona). I’m a huge fan of Ririka specifically, and though she wasn’t in my ideal lineup by the end of the season, she made my personal Top 9 a couple of times.

“Love in Bloom” as the title track (though the other track “Azalea” was also promoted) was really good, and had a nice refreshing sound in my opinion. I love hearing these former contestants along with Elva and Nayu, the group’s other members, enjoying themselves while performing. I don’t think I can give them anything but an A! They’re also gearing up for a comeback in July that I’m quite excited for.

Pretty

Pretty, “Dear U” music video

Grade: D

Pretty was Future Idol Asia’s debut for the month of April, with the ten members debuting on April 20. This group again has the same kind of softer feeling and look that With Me did, which I think contributes to the overall bland, not outstanding feeling. Concepts like this can be hard to pull off, especially in debut groups. Some of the members had better vocal quality than others in this group, and as a whole, the group sounded kind of like a youth choir during the chorus. I don’t know how else to describe it. There were also times where I couldn’t hear the members over the background music, which I think is usually a bad sign. I think I’m most comfortable giving this group a D.

Busters

Busters, “Futt” music video

Grade: B

As a casual fan of some of Busters’ songs, especially their 2017 debut “Dream On,” I was interested and a bit surprised to find that they were re-debuting this year! The lineup of five includes two members who hadn’t been involved in any previous comebacks, though they’ve been part of the group in the two-year hiatus.

Through Marbling Entertainment and JTG Entertainment, Busters officially re-debuted on April 27 with the single album “Re:Born,” featuring three new songs with the title song being “Futt.” Like VIVIZ, I expected this debut/re-debut to be of a higher quality when it comes to vocals, since three of the five members had previously been in Busters and already had some experience under their belts. While I do think I was right on that end, I found myself a little disappointed in a way? I’m not really sure why, since this song is catchy, especially once the chorus hits, and all of the members are clearly talented. Maybe I just liked “Dream On” so much that that blinded me, haha. So I’m going to give them a B.

I mentioned it at other times in the article, but I also find it funny that two former members of Busters, Yeseo and Hyungseo, also re-debuted this year in Kep1er and CLASS:y, respectively.

LE SSERAFIM

LE SSERAFIM, “Fearless” music video

Grade: B

LE SSERAFIM (that’s an anagram of “I’m fearless”) was yet another group whose debut was highly anticipated, largely because of former IZ*ONE members Sakura and Chaewon. The company Source Music was actually recently acquired by HYBE, the label that BTS is under, and is only the third girl group to be debuted under HYBE in that sense. There’s a great video here that explains why that is, which I find interesting.

Anyway, six-member group LE SSERAFIM debuted on May 2 with their mini album Fearless and title track of the same name. While they won their first music show just eight days after debuting, I can honestly say that I didn’t really enjoy “Fearless” that much. I mean, it was good, and it was definitely catchy, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, if that makes sense. The concept seemed to be a little overly sexual for my tastes, which is nothing against the girls themselves, since they don’t exactly choose the concept. I can tell why “Fearless” would be a popular song, but I just personally didn’t like it, so I’m going to give their debut a B.

LE SSERAFIM has actually had a few controversies even before their debut, especially due to their member Garam who was put on hiatus starting on May 20. Here’s another video that explains the situation better than I could, but know that it mostly has to do with bullying allegations. This is far from the first bullying scandal in K-Pop, but it’s the first one that I know of that came out even before the group was able to debut.

CLASS:y

CLASS:y, “Shutdown” music video

Grade: A

You would think that I would’ve been watching My Teenage Girl with as much fervor as I watched Girls Planet 999, but I actually didn’t see any of the show that formed CLASS:y. I went into their debut knowing little to nothing about the members, as I do with most groups on this list, and I have to say that I came out pleasantly surprised.

The seven members of CLASS:y debuted through M25 and Universal Music Japan on May 5 with their first mini album Class Is Over. “Shutdown” served as their title track, and I have to say I was kind of blown away by members Jimin (who ended in first place), Boeun (who ended in sixth) and Riwon (who ended in fifth) specifically, though all members are talented. Hyungseo was actually a part of the group Busters that I mentioned above in their original lineup, making that two former Busters members who re-debuted this year (the second being Yeseo from Kep1er).

I wasn’t originally expecting to like “Shutdown,” but I can’t deny how catchy it is. I originally watched the live stage rather than the music video, but watching the music video now gives me quirky kinds of vibes that I have to say I enjoy. I think it showcases the strengths of the seven members in terms of singing, rapping and dancing. I don’t think I can in good faith give this debut anything but an A. My one huge issue is how young some of the members are, especially Seonyou and Boeun, who are both 14, but that’s an issue that should be taken up with My Teenage Girl and not specifically the final lineup.

On May 26, CLASS:y actually released more music through their mini album Lives Across, which serves as the second half of Class Is Over, giving them a total of nine songs already. I have to say that I’m very interested in where they’ll go as a temporary group like Kep1er!

Rush

Rush, “Hate You” music video

Grade: C

Slightly more jazzy than the other Future Idol Asia groups this year, we have Rush, a ten-member group who debuted on May 31 with their single “Hate You.” I think of all the Future Idol Asia groups who debuted so far this year, this group is the one with the catchiest song and the most vocal talent from just the debut songs. They seem to have their stuff together, honestly, though I’m not able to tell like ever if autotune is used, so if they do use it and I don’t recognize it, please don’t come after me, haha. All that to say, I think I’m comfortable giving this group a C. I wouldn’t mind seeing another song from them, though it does irritate me that I can’t accurately tell which member is singing when, or even who the members are.

FAINIT

FAINIT, “Killer” music video

Grade: A

Five-member FAINIT debuted on June 13 through FAINIT Company. If I’m not mistaken, they were one of the pre-debut groups who I thought might debut last year, but with a last-minute lineup change, they ended up debuting their single “Killer” this year. And, I have to say, while I’m not sure what I was expecting for their debut, I ended up loving it!

The five members definitely—pun incoming—killed their parts in the song, and while I haven’t seen a live stage for them as of writing this (June 13, when it came out), I thoroughly enjoyed the song and the music video. They have a sort of darker concept, like PIXY or Dreamcatcher, and I’m very excited to see what they have upcoming! So I think I have to give them an A.

Girls’ World

Girls’ World “Rapunzel” music video

Grade: C

The first of two June 20 debuts, Girls’ World is a four-member group that debuted through Liz Entertainment. They only have one single, “Rapunzel,” and it seems to me that it’s more common for debuts to be composed of just one or two songs rather than a mini album made of three or more songs.

With a more ethereal feeling, and apparently with only three of their members and two ICU members, I was reminded a lot of Oh My Girl’s “SSFWL (The Fifth Season),” especially with the white room the choreography segments were in. I had the feeling that, while the vocals were good, I couldn’t hear them as well as I usually can in other music videos. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this song, either, but again I’m interested to see where else Girls’ World goes from here. I think I’m going to give them a C, however.

LAPILLUS

Lapillus, “Hit Ya!” music video

Grade: B

Lapillus debuted on June 20 as well through MLD Entertainment. Of the six members, I already know one: Nonaka Shana from Girls Planet 999. Shana was one of my choices for Kep1er’s final lineup, and while she didn’t make it there, I was so excited to learn that she would be a member of Lapillus! Like Girls’ World, they also only have their debut single, “Hit Ya!”

I audibly said “wow” when I heard the beginning of the song; I didn’t really expect such a concept from this group, reminding me of more rap-heavy groups. That’s nowhere near a bad thing with them, since they seem to execute it well, though I do wish the chorus was a little more, you know? The choreography and imagery in the music video were both very cool as well, though altogether I wish this song had just a little more. It’s not the worst debut of the year by a long shot, though it’s not my favorite. I’m interested to see what else will come from Lapillus, but I’m only giving their debut a B. That said, I can definitely see how Shana has improved since Girls Planet 999; she fits really well with this group.

…It’s now eight days after I originally wrote this section. I’m gonna keep this group at a B, but it’s now solidly implanted in my brain forever. It’s going on my playlist.

I have to say, there have already been some very impressive debuts this year. I can’t wait to see what the other half of the year brings, and I hope you stick around to learn about them with me!

Nina Fichera

Geneseo '24

Nina Fichera is an avid writer and reader, and can often be found writing somewhere (usually in her room) with her trusty journal. She is working towards an English degree, with the hopes of becoming a Creative Writing professor.
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